100 Very Best Restaurants 2015: No. 27 Jaleo

Full of Spanish-made art, music, furnishings, and, of course, food, the new Jaleo Penn Quarter shows off José Andrés’s commitment to his home country. Photograph by Jeff Martin.

It’s now common to get Thai, Indian, or even Serbian food in small-plates form, but Washington’s tapas trend didn’t exist before José Andrés opened this restaurant barely more than 20 years ago.

His trio of color-drenched spots are about as well oiled as restaurant machines get, churning out hits at an astonishingly consistent clip. Every meal here should start with the brittle, tomato-topped Cristal bread. We like to mix up the old-school tapas-house fare (béchamel croquetas, garlicky shrimp) with dishes that carry the influence of Andrés’s futurist mentor, Ferran Adrià (a deconstructed gin-and-tonic dessert).

The DC location has the best cocktail list and more of the forward-thinking plates, while Crystal City offers a well-curated wine shop.

Don’t miss:

  • 48-month-cured Ibérico de Bellota ham
  • Garrotxa cheese with apricot jam
  • Bacon-wrapped dates
  • Rabbit confit with apricot purée
  • Ibérico pork mini-burgers
  • Flan

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Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Logan Circle.

Anna Spiegel
Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.